In an age where the definition and implications of artificial intelligence (AI) are still being unravelled by many entrepreneurs, a recent study by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (SBEC) reveals a significant adoption of AI tools among small businesses, leading to substantial improvements in efficiency and saving billions of dollars every year.
According to the SBEC’s findings, nearly half (48%) of small businesses have incorporated AI tools in the last year, with another 29% having used them for between one and two years. SBEC CEO Karen Kerrigan notes, “The swift adoption of AI by small businesses is evident, and the diverse array of tools and applications available are elevating their profitability, efficiency, and competitive edge in critical times. An overwhelming 93% of these business owners acknowledge the cost-effectiveness of AI tools in fostering savings and boosting profitability.”
Essential AI Tools for Small Businesses
One of the first AI tools to gain popularity was ChatGPT. This tool, like other AI technologies, processes extensive data and can quickly generate content on a variety of topics, though accuracy checks are recommended.
Small businesses can now access AI tools for various needs, including marketing, sales, business planning, financial management, and human resources, often at minimal or no cost. Some notable tools include:
- Upmetrics: A business plan writing tool with over 400 templates
- ClickUp: A cloud-based project management software
- Jasper: A content creation tool for various platforms
- Zia – Zoho’s AI assistant for business.: A sales tool for lead and data management
- ChatSpot by HubSpot: A free marketing and sales tool, usable without a HubSpot account
- DALL-E 2: An AI that generates realistic images from textual descriptions
- Manatal: A recruitment tool for HR
Time and Cost Savings with AI in Small Businesses
The SBEC survey highlights that small businesses have realized significant time and cost savings with AI, allowing for reallocation of resources in various ways, including:
- 41% redirecting time to higher-value tasks
- 39% investing in customer engagement and retention innovations
- 37% funding new technologies with AI-generated savings
- 36% maintaining stable prices in inflationary times
- 34% pursuing business growth opportunities
- 25% increasing wages and benefits
- 25% setting aside capital for emergencies or other purposes
- 20% accelerating debt repayment
Workforce Challenges and AI Adoption
A key factor in the adoption of AI tools is the current tight labour market, especially post-Covid. With remote work enabling employees to seek jobs nationwide, local businesses face challenges in attracting and retaining talent. The SBEC report indicates that 25% of small businesses turned to AI due to rising labour costs, and 19% adopted AI to augment existing workforce skills or to compensate for the lack of skilled workers.
Competition with larger companies is another reason for nearly one-third of the surveyed businesses turning to AI.
The Downsides of AI in Small Businesses
However, AI implementation is not without its drawbacks:
- Lack of creativity: AI-generated content can be inaccurate and lack the nuances of human writing.
- Missing emotional intelligence: AI lacks the empathy and experiential decision-making crucial in human interactions.
- High cost of robotics: While basic robots are affordable, those capable of complex, multiple tasks remain expensive.
- Fear of dystopian outcomes: Concerns similar to those depicted in ‘The Terminator’ movie, where AI dominates humanity, are real and under government scrutiny.
Considering AI for Your Business
Businesses stand to benefit from exploring AI tools, which can significantly impact time and cost efficiency. And to clarify, this article was crafted without the aid of any AI tools!